Ear infection or medically named ‘Acute Otitis Media’ is an inflammation of the middle ear. The middle ear is placed behind the eardrum.
Usually, it causes fluid in the middle ear along with bulging eardrum combined with high levels of pain. The eardrum is often punctured and purulent.
Acute Otitis media mostly affects children, especially infants and preschool kids. The reason why children are more exposed to it is that the Eustachian tube is shorter in children than in adults and thus viruses and bacteria are easier to enter and cause the infection.
Bacteria like the ‘Streptococcus Pneumonia’ and the ‘Haemophilus influenza’ are responsible for about 85 percent of the infections and viruses for the rest of 15 percent. In many cases, ear infections clear up on their own. Your healthcare provider may recommend a medication to relieve pain.
If the ear infection has worsened or not improved, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. In children younger than the age of two years, an antibiotic is usually needed for ear infections. The infection is painful but short. Antibiotics are most often prescribed after the right diagnosis has been made.
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What causes an ear infection or Acute Otitis Media?
An ear infection is caused by a bacterium or virus in the middle ear. This infection often results from another illness, cold, flu, or allergy that causes congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes.
The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. The bacteria or virus can also cause the eustachian tube to swell. This swelling can cause the tube to become blocked, which keeps normally produced fluids to build up in the middle ear instead of being able to be drained away.
Symptoms of an ear infection or Acute Otitis Media
In infants, the most obvious sign is constant crying and irritability. Also, they usually have a fever and trouble sleeping. Doctors argue on whether ear tugging is a valid symptom of acute otitis.
Fever can be present in children of all ages, and usually, older children complain of pain in the ear.
Symptoms of Acute Otitis Media in both children and adults may include:
- Ear pain or earache.
- Drainage from the ear which is thick, yellow, or bloody.
- A feeling of persistent pressure in the ear.
- Hearing loss in the affected ear.
- A child or adult generally feels sick.
- Balance loss.
- Appetite loss.
Shortly after having a cold, the infection may manifest itself. It is a fact that all infections include fluid behind the eardrum. Interestingly, the symptoms may occur in one or both ears.
It is important to react quickly to these symptoms and get the right treatment. If the symptoms last more than a day, or the pain starts to intensify a doctor visit is unavoidable as soon as possible.
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How to treat it?
The majority of infections resolve without antibiotic treatment. Home treatment and pain medications are usually recommended before antibiotics are tried to avoid the overuse of antibiotics and reduce the risk of adverse reactions from antibiotics.
1. Acute Otitis Media – Homecare
Your doctor may suggest the following home care treatments relieve your child’s pain while waiting for the AOM infection to go away:
- Applying a warm, moist washcloth over the infected ear.
- Using over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops for pain relief.
- Taking OTC (Over-the-counter) pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
2. Acute Otitis Media – Medication
Using eardrops for pain relief and other pain relievers, or antibiotics if your symptoms don’t go away after a few days of home treatment.
3. Acute Otitis Media – Surgery
It’s recommended if your child’s infection doesn’t respond to treatment or if your child has recurrent ear infections. Surgery options usually include:
- Adenoid removal – Adenoids surgically removed if they’re enlarged or infected and your child has recurrent ear infections.
- Ear tubes – Tiny tubes in your child’s ear. The tubes allow air and fluid to drain from the middle ear.
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How to prevent it?
Here are some ways to reduce the risk of ear infections:
- Don’t smoke.
- Control allergies.
- Prevent colds.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Watch for mouth breathing or snoring.
- Get vaccinations.